Fort Peck Lake, Montana, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Montana - Missouri River Country -

Fort Peck Lake, located 20 miles southeast of Glasgow, Montana on Montana Highway 24, is the 5th-largest man-made reservoir by volume in the United States and is Montana’s largest lake. Named after an old trading post, Fort Peck Lake is one of six lakes on the Missouri River. The other five lakes are Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake. Although sometimes drought may reduce water levels, Fort Peck Lake always offers many recreational activities, such as camping, boating, fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching.

Construction of Fort Peck Dam began in 1933 as a project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was the first dam built in the upper Missouri River. The Fort Peck project was authorized by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and provided over 10,000 jobs for people during the Depression. While working on the dam in 1938 a massive slide slowed progress. Completed in 1940 and measuring 21,026 feet in length and 250 feet high, Fort Peck Dam is the largest hydraulically filled dam in the United States. Originally designed for production of hydroelectric power, Fort Peck Lake is also used for fish and wildlife, recreation, irrigation, navigation, public water supply, flood damage reduction, improved water quality, and recreation.

Fort Peck Lake lies within the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge — named after a colorful western artist, Charlie Russell. The Refuge completely surrounds the lake and encompasses 1.1 million-acres of pristine land. Wildlife is abundant throughout the lake and includes mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, buffalo, pronghorns, sage grouse, waterfowl, and bald eagles. Native prairies, forested coulees, river bottoms, and badlands await visitors the at Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is one of 540 National Wildlife Refuges in the United States, and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Another project of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with cooperative effort from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Fort Peck Paleontology Incorporated is the fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum located downstream for the dam. A Cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex known as Peck’s Rex can be seen at the center, as well as the Wildlife of Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge exhibit, and the history of Fort Peck Dam and boomtowns. The center also has interpretive programs, theater presentations, amphitheater programs, and well as two of the largest aquariums in Montana.

Fort Peck Lake is home to a prehistoric graveyard and is recognized by scientists as one of the most fossiliferous localities in the world. Dr. Barnum Brown, a leading authority on dinosaurs, made some very important discoveries at Fort Peck between 1907 and 1914 which are now assembled at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Visitors may view over 400 specimens in the museum inside the Fort Peck power plant.

With 1,520 miles of nearly treeless shoreline, the grassy hills of Fort Peck Lake offer visitors a spectacular view, as well as 27 different recreational areas. The recreation areas near the dam offer paved roads, electricity, and showers, while the areas around the rest of the lake are more primitive. Visitors should check with the Park Service before travelling around the lake. Some roads may be impassable due to inclement weather.

Other popular activities around Fort Peck Lake include hiking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing. Hunter will enjoy the abundance of deer, elk,big h orn sheep, and upland birds. Anglers across the nation recognize Fort Peck Lake as a hot spot for walleye fishing. Other than walleye, Fort Peck Lake offers excellent fishing for lake trout, sauger, smallmouth bass, Chinook salmon and northern pike. The Fort Peck Lake Area and the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge provide superb hunting of deer, elk, big horn sheep, and prong horn. The Missouri River Breaks are known for producing large elk and other game animals.

The remoteness of Fort Peck Lake offers a great retreat from the demands of life. Visitors can enjoy nature while having a good time doing what they like best. Whither it is boating, fishing, or just taking a leisure swim there is something for everyone at Fort Peck Lake.

Things to do at Fort Peck Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • Museum

Fish species found at Fort Peck Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Chinook Salmon
  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Salmon
  • Sauger
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Fort Peck Lake Photo Gallery

Fort Peck Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 245,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 1,520 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,234 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 2,197 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 2,246 feet

Maximum Depth: 220 feet

Water Volume: 18,700,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1940

Drainage Area: 10,200 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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